On August 5, 2012, an SUV-sized rover named Curiosity landed safely in Gale Crater on Mars, beginning a new era in the exploration of Mars. Curiosity is by far the most complex and sophisticated robot spacecraft ever built and it will add fascinating new details to our understanding of the past and present habitability of the red planet. Gentry Lee will describe the challenging development of the Curiosity spacecraft and its spectacular landing and early scientific discoveries, as well as the place of Curiosity in the history of mankind’s knowledge of Mars.
Gentry Lee is Chief Engineer for the Solar System Exploration Directorate at the Jet Propulsion Laboratory (JPL) in Pasadena, California. In that position, Lee is responsible for the engineering integrity of all the robotic planetary missions managed by JPL for NASA. His major recent work includes the engineering oversight of the fantastically successful and popular Curiosity rover mission to Mars in August 2012, the Dawn mission to the asteroids Vesta and Ceres, the Juno mission to Jupiter, and the GRAIL missions to the Moon. Previously, Lee provided oversight for the Phoenix and twin MER rover missions to Mars, as well as the Deep Impact and Stardust missions.
Lee was Chief Engineer for the Galileo project from 1977-1988 and, after working in a variety of positions on the Viking project from 1968-76, was Director of Science Analysis and Mission Planning during the Viking operations. The historic Viking mission was mankind’s first successful surface mission on another planet. The Galileo mission explored Jupiter with both an atmospheric probe and an orbiter that mapped the major Jovian satellites during a decade of operations.
In addition to his engineering work, Gentry Lee has been an active novelist, television producer, computer game designer, media columnist, lecturer, and a television performer/narrator. Between 1989 and 1994 Mr. Lee co-authored four novels, CRADLE, RAMA II, THE GARDEN OF RAMA, and RAMA REVEALED, with revered science fiction grandmaster Arthur C. Clarke. All four books were New York Times bestsellers and were translated into over twenty-five languages. Since his collaboration with Mr. Clarke, Gentry Lee has written three more successful solo novels, BRIGHT MESSENGERS, DOUBLE FULL MOON NIGHT, and THE TRANQUILITY WARS.
From 1976 until 1981 Lee was the late Carl Sagan’s partner in the creation, design, development, and implementation of COSMOS, the highly successful science documentary series for television that won several Emmys and the prestigious Peabody Award. In July 2009, Gentry Lee was the featured performer/narrator in “Are We Alone?” a two hour Discovery Channel documentary about life in the solar system.